She was thrown out of The Apprentice for “sitting on the fence”. But Jewish candidate Joy Stefanicki, 31, a former marketing director from Birmingham, says that Lord Sugar never got to see her potential, because it was overshadowed by the behaviour of other contestants.
“I shouldn’t have been in the boardroom in the first place. I don’t think Lord Sugar understood that I’d made the decision not to behave in the same way as the other girls. He thought I didn’t have it in me.
“It’s a real shame. I stayed out of the drama. It wasn’t because I didn’t have any ideas.
“People used to tell me to enter the show all the time, I think it’s because I’m quite gobby. I’m not afraid to speak my mind. But that didn’t come across in the show.”
On this week’s BBC show, Ms Stefanicki, the second contestant to leave, was brought back into the boardroom to face Lord Sugar by the girls’ project manager Laura after they failed to sell any self-assembly book stands to retailers.
Lord Sugar told Ms Stefanicki: “Joy, there are people that come into this process who think if they don’t put their head on the chopping block they’ll escape. They do not escape.”
Despite the team’s failures, Ms Stefanicki says the tasks were the best part of the experience.
“It wasn’t shown on the programme, but after I was fired and I put my hands over my face, I said, ‘I’m really sad I’m not going to do any more tasks’.
“They were a really good barometer to test people’s skills, their teamwork. But it wasn’t fun because of the behaviour of the people.” She defends Jewish candidate and ex-JFS girl Melissa Cohen, who has been criticised for her forthright attitude.
“She comes across as really aggressive. I won’t lie, she’s not the easiest person to work with. But actually she’s got a really soft heart. She’s confident in her ability, she’s very proud of her heritage, but she can be obnoxious at times. When the cameras are off, she’s a nice girl.“
Growing up in Southampton, Ms Stefanicki worked in her parents’ pub and fish and chip shop. “It’s something I’ve been brought up with, an entrepreneurial spirit. My family have always worked for themselves.”
She decided to enter the show after being made redundant in 2008.
She said: “To be honest, I entered The Apprentice because I was unemployed. I had nothing to lose. Lord Sugar said at the end of the last series ‘Have you been made redundant? Do you think you can do this?’ and I thought, yes, definitely”.
Her father, Noah, is Israeli, and she has many happy memories of the country. “I spent most of my summers there as a kid, I try to go as often as I can, I love it there. I still consider making aliyah sometimes, it’s a hell of a lifestyle out there.
“But it’s really difficult to make a living in Israel. If I could choose a place on the planet, I’d live there, but I haven’t figured out a way to make any money. I’m very proud of being Jewish but it’s a cultural, not a religious thing.”
Life after The Apprentice isn’t set in stone. “I’m open to offers: I’m going to see what happens next.”
And Joy’s prediction for the winner?
“I think Stella is going to win, that’s where my money is. She’s all over it”.